5/29/12 questions and discussion
1-would Socrates have created a good Sunday funnys?5
2-is Spencer's "survival if the fittest" true?
3-what do we need the rich for?4
4-are professional sports good for us?66
5-if self-interest is not a good predictor for public policy, then which groups do we identify with?6
Is there a moral element to people being productive in society and if there is what are the implications of people not being productive in society?9
Jim: to expect our society will give something to its members requires our society to be productive in equal measure to the that expectation. We cannot be productive and inefficient simultaneously. Then allocation of resources is important and that is why we need Capitalism. In large societies without capitalism lots of money is wasted that would be productive in a capitalist nation. So then, what's the role of government? Should it subsidize the un-productive? I say -- emphatically -- no. Saying we need to help people means people have to be productive. Any help given requires that stringent constraints need to be placed on the recipients. Not "pulling the wagon" then, is immoral.
Dick: 3 kinds of citizens are helped: 1- those who need it. 2- those who don't need it. 3- the ones that are gaming the system. If we continue to honor our rich we'll end up with a variety of royalty figures, and then, as in the bad old feudal days, the rich will take turns eating one another. What is productivity? Somewhere along the line the people on the factory floor need to be properly compensated for their work. If the rich are the only ones getting richer/more powerful, all the rest become slaves.
Jon: I recently listened to part of a radio history of the labor movement in Minnesota. What I heard described was an appalling abuse of power. Political leaders who were sympathetic to the iron mine owners bent over backwards to prevent unionization. Wages were too low to live on. Unions were fired upon during a protest (killing 3, wounding 6 -- none were armed), for example, by city police who's chief of police took orders from the company owners to do just that. what is productivity? Clearly it's not what happened to those iron mine workers/truckers. I am certain the company owners considered their businesses to be productive, in part due to low wages and zero benefits. This kind of productivity is is immoral. Perhaps it isn't even productivity if it requires the abuse of its workforce. Capitalism's Achilles Heel is the inevitable concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a tiny fraction of the populace. This was what forced those workers to unionize. They were willing to risk their lives to change an immoral economic system.
Jim: what is "fair?" Government needs to enable productivity, not concern itself with fairness.
David: the last time our species had "fair" was when we were hunter gatherers. Civilization created unfairness. Jim talks about productivity, our CEOs are outsourcing in pursuit of productivity! That's productive for those companies but not for the unemployed here.
Jim: was hunting and gathering more productive than civilization then? Less fairness, found as you suggest existed inside civilizations, was better for everybody. It's not fairness that matters, it's productivity that matters.
David: hunter/gatherers just took what they could whenever they could get it. Now, inside our "civilization" we have this same directive to take yet have no civilized way of expressing it.
Phillip: communist Cuba has the best health care system in the world.
Jim: say you're critically ill, will you fly to cuba?
Phillip: I'll stay here because I'm can afford care here. If I were a Mexican peasant you bet I would want to be cared for in Cuba.
John: the Keynesian argument is that government can spend us out of a slump. This is debatable. In the long run the economy would fail if it produced unneeded things, which likely occurs during a Keynesian solution.
Shannon: are you saying productivity is not enough?
David: all I'm hearing is productivity is based on technology.
John: to keep up with the technology, knowledge/education is required.
David: education is essential to productivity?
John: the role of government is needed: road building, education, things like the WPA and the CCC (during the depression). Government can create disincentives to productivity too.
Larry: for the Plains Indians,if someone was too old to contribute they would be left behind. Is that moral? For them, yes, for us, no. Most on the political Left feel getting paid to work is good and oppose leeching off the system, just like the political Right.
Jim: railroad "Barons" made railroads faster, more productive, more efficient. Made everybody more productive yet they are typically portrayed as cruel heartless greedy monsters. It may have been unfair for some, but our net gain then and now is increased productivity and increased capacity to provide for our citizens the things we say we need from our society.
Larry: weren't they mistreating their workers?
Jim: at the time it was ok. Nobody was complaining. It's like comparing our morality now to those Plains Indians then.
Larry: in a system like ours when it goes bad -- when work is not available -- people sit around. What are we supposed to do in such a circumstance? That exactly the place government can temporarily get us through as it did during the depression.
Jim: governments only role is to enable a system where we all can work productively.
Ron: what if we have too many people? We can't make too many people productive. We can't control the number of people in the system. It may not be their fault if the economy has no place for them.
Jon: this is the dark side of Capitalism. It's amoral and doesn't easily respond to outcries of abuse. Abuse, up to a point, increases productivity in the short term but alienates participants in the long run. With America's wealthy conspicuously consuming we see just this alienation: they don't realize that as we watch them (they DO hope we're watching) we are in fact NOT inspired to ourselves become ravenous and absurd. It is alienating. Last century America's rich were far more mindful of their obligation not to gloat over their wealth; they tried to be inconspicuous consumers.
Shannon: what is productive? One has to be able to do something that other people want. One might be good at doing something that nobody wants. Luck matters. What do we do with those who can't be productive?
Jim: what is not productive?
Shanon: that's hard to know. If someone feels they're contributing, how do we judge that? Technology does increase productivity but also decreases jobs. At what point do we make up work to compensate for the lost employment? What are the implications of people who have no work to do?
John: becoming more productive does lead to need for fewer workers. There is isn't a fixed ratio of work to people. Property rights have helped a great deal. Because people are willing to work harder/more productively if in the end it will enable their ownership of things.
David: at what point do we reach the limit?